Hakeem Jeffries launches bid to be top House Democrat in letter to colleagues

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries
File photo/Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech

Brooklyn Congress Member Hakeem Jeffries is on his way to becoming the next top Democrat in the House as he formally launched his bid for the position Friday.

In a letter, shared with amNewYork Metro by an aide to Jeffries, sent to his Democratic House colleagues, the rep spelled out why they should name him the successor to outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In his writing, Jeffries touted his tenure as chair of the House Democratic Caucus – the fifth highest ranking Democratic position in the House – for the past four years. But he quickly pivoted to his vision for the party going forward, writing “I now look to the future.”

“Today, I write to humbly ask for your support for the position of House Democratic Leader as we once again prepare to meet the moment,” Jeffries, who represents Brooklyn and a small part of Queens, wrote.

Elections for Democratic House leadership positions will take place in two weeks on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

Jeffries launching his run to be the next House Minority Leader, comes on the heels of Pelosi announcing Thursday that she wouldn’t seek reelection as the top Democrat in the House. That decision followed the party losing its majority in Washington’s lower chamber this week, albeit by a razor-thin margin.

Nancy Pelosi
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks on the House floor at the Capitol in Washington Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The path for Jeffries to become the House Democratic leader is fairly clear after Congress Members Steny Hoyer and James Clyborn, the second and third highest ranking Democrats in the House, backed him on Thursday after taking themselves out of the running for the top job. Additionally, as first reported by Politico, another potential top contender – California Congress Member Adam Schiff – also declined to seek the position Thursday, instead setting his sights on a 2024 U.S. Senate run.

In the letter, Jeffries articulated why he should be the House Democrats’ next leader by highlighting three central tenets of his vision for the role: giving more opportunities to junior members of the caucus, increasing security for representatives in the face of mounting political violence and retaking the Democratic majority in 2024.

Under his leadership, Jeffries wrote, top leadership roles – though he didn’t specify which ones – that traditionally go to those with seniority, would also be made available to less experienced Democratic members.

“Meaningful policymaking and public engagement opportunities should be robustly distributed regardless of length of service,” he wrote. “High-profile leadership assignments should be spread out throughout the Caucus. In addition, the Steering and Policy Committee should be fully empowered as a vehicle for broader engagement, and we must chart a return to regular order. Equally significant, I promise to prioritize and value input from every corner of the Caucus.”

In the face of mounting White nationalism and high-profile attacks on elected officials or those in their orbit – like the assault on Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, last month – Jeffries made clear that he’d prioritize the safety of caucus members. That includes improving coordination between the Office of the Sergeant-at-Arms, Capitol Police and local law enforcement and creating a “Task Force on Member Security” that would draft legislative and administrative actions to combat the scourge of political violence.

Perhaps most importantly, Jeffires wrote, retaking the House majority in 2024 would be central to his agenda as leader. He emphasized that Democrats’ path to winning back the House relies on centering “kitchen table” and “pocketbook” issues and showcasing that Democrats prioritize the issues most Americans are concerned about.

“We must make sure that the perception of the Democratic brand matches up with the reality that we do in fact authentically share values that unite the heartland, urban America, rural America, suburban America and small town America,” he wrote.”

“This undertaking will not be easy,” he continued. “We must show up early and in unexpected places. It will require the involvement, creativity and input of every single House Democrat to be successful.”